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warning, “Now flee thou to thy place," with a hint at the honors which he had intended to bestow. The reply was that the king had been forewarned that Balaam would speak only as God should dictate; and then were added prophecies respecting Moab, and Edom and Amalek and the Kenites, which could leave to Balak or his friends no items of hope.
Balaam had been foiled in his hopes of honor and wealth; he had been made to speak involuntarily words of blessing where he would have been glad to curse ; he had himself been filled with chagrin at his three efforts, with altars and sacrifices; and he now retired from it all with as much grief as Balak could feel. But a plan then suggested itself to him, which he thought might succeed. It was truly an execrable one, but in his mortification he was ready for anything. The last place of sacrifice, full of licentious surroundings, perhaps suggested the idea to him: he laid it before the king and it was adopted. It was easy in that country of worshippers of Baal-Peor and Ashteroth to find agents for its execution; to execute it would seem to those people to be a patriotic deed.
The plan was to entice the Israelites away from God, and to draw them over to Baal, by means of the licentious Midianite women. God had interposed for his people here and in Bashan: that cloud and that pillar of fire were visible proofs of his presence: he had turned purposed cursing into blessing: but if a barrier could be interposed between the Israelites and him; if they could be brought to worship Baal and Ashteroth, and their protector be changed to an enemy, then these vast hordes of hated strangers would be themselves made the causes of their own defeat and ruin. Revenge so got would be doubly sweet. Balaam suggested his plan' and it was adopted: he left for his distant home, but the means were immediately put into execution.
1 Num, xxxi. 16.
The Israelites, during all this, were resting unconsciously in their tents, and enjoying the ease and repose of their new encamping-places, on the heights or down in the vale of Shittim among its acacia groves. They had tried their arms against formidable warlike hosts, and had conquered : by their side was the Promised Land spread out before their vision : they believed that they had only to cross the river and it would all be theirs. Their vigilance was relaxed, their souls were becoming enervated by indulgence; the whole country about them was suggestive of licentious thoughts, which found too many answering sensations in their own natures during this ease and idleness. In this state of things they perceived Midianite women coming among them singly or by companies, and respecting them saw no occasion for alarm. Had they been men of any nation, no matter what their professions of friendship might have been, the apprehensions of the rulers and especially of Moses would have been excited; but the danger here stole into the camp in such a disguised shape and was so carefully concealed that the mischief was done before it had been suspected by the leader. The arts of these women not only led off the men into crime, but they were insinuating the poison of heathenish belief among the whole congregation of Israel.
Moses waked up, by and by, to a perception of the mighty evil in the camp. He had never been of a suspicious, uncharitable nature, and his attention had lately been divided also by the newly-acquired possessions of his people and directed to measures for holding them in safety. These recent proceedings might therefore very easily escape his scrutiny, especially as the abettors of them would court concealment, and be on their guard against exciting his displeasure. He then might well be horrified, as he was, when the nature and the extent of the wickedness began to be disclosed to him. The plot carried out by these artful, lascivious women had been successful to such an extent that the abominable scenes in the former worship at Beth-peor, had been reenacted now by his own people, and the sacrifices and feasts to these heathen gods were beginning to be re-established by the Israelites.
The fiery indignation of the leader was in harmony with God's order on the occasion : “ Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun [their Baal-god], that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel ;” to which was added, “Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor."
It was done: for a sudden revulsion of feeling throughout the camp was greatly aided by a plague which had broken out among them, caused evidently by the divine displeasure. Twenty-four thousand people perished amid its swift ravages: the remainder, pale and trembling,-no one knowing where it would end, and all feeling the justice of the judgment,-hastened to the front of the Tabernacle, and with tears deplored their wickedness. An act of daring outrage, committed insolently, even there before them by one of their nobles, and promptly punished by Phinehas, son of Eleazar, was the last of those scenes in this, the last of the rebellions against God while under the government of Moses. The plague, at this last act, was stayed.
One more deed remained for this aged leader : after that he was to go to his long rest. “Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites,” said the divine order: “afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people." We are reading in this Bible narrative a record in which the divine hand is seen, and reasons given for its interference. All transactions among nations are marked by strong visitations of the Almighty Ruler,-nations suddenly subverted, and all, both old and young, perishing,—catastrophes by earthquakes or famines, where all alike die terrible deaths; —we acknowledge them to be by the divine, omnipotent power, and though we cannot see yet, we recognize the rightfulness of his sway, mysterious to us. In this present record we do see,-still however darkly, as men must ever see when marking the visitations of God, but we see enough in these records, to enable us to believe that, in all others, God's hand rules in righteousness, and for the general welfare.”
In this case a thousand men were taken from each of the tribes of Israel and sent against the Midianites. Battles ensued, in which the latter were defeated with great slaughter, and in one of these, Balaam, who had come out to the assistance of his friends, was himself slain. The women and children of the Midianites were taken alive, but some of the former, probably as a warning to all worshippers of Baal-Peor, and against such arts as were practised on the Israelites, were put to death. The immense number of sheep and cattle taken as the results of these battles, shows the nomadic character of this people, who had, however, in certain places, permanent habitations: the latter were destroyed.
DEATH OF MOSES.
LORD GOD, thou hast begun to show thy servant
thy greatness and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or on earth that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon."
– Such was the appeal now of the aged man, as standing on those heights overlooking the Jordan and the country beyond it, he felt an earnest yearning to set foot on that Promised Land, the end of such long wanderings and of so many trials, and at last so near. He wished also to see his people safely across that stream, to feel himself among them in their new homes, and to witness their possession, if only of a small portion of the country, and but for a few days. Then he would be ready to close his eyes on all the world and to depart for another. It might be that there would also be fighting just beyond the river; for that large walled city of Jericho was confronting them, and that immense garden-like plain would not be readily yielded by its inhabitants. How beautiful that plain was ! how inviting, with its groves of feathery palms! its great stretches of intense verdure, its signs of fertility and abundance! Even Moses, himself, as he gazed upon the palm groves, the sight of which carried him back to his young, fresh life in Egypt, may have felt the longings which old associations bring back, and have wished to sit, if only for a few hours, once more in the palm tree shade, with the rustling of the beautiful feathery coronet overhead.
So he prayed: but the prayer was denied. The answer, was:
“Let it suffice thee : speak no more unto me of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward and northward, and southward and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes. for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.” 1
There is an exactness and a firmness of determination in all God's dealings with the Jews, as shown in this Mosaic record, which is constantly meeting us with striking force as we read. They were God's chosen people; favored and blessed as no other people had ever been; and the picture
I Deut. iii. 24-27.